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EXPERT REVIEW This iconic Art Deco hotel has reopened after an impressive restoration that preserved its heritage - and the environment

Eco


Overall eco rating


The Savoy reopened in late 2010 after a GBP220 million facelift that went more than skin-deep, proclaiming itself as London's Greenest Luxury Five Star.

Our verdict? We're impressed.  London’s most famous luxury hotel is at least as green as any other hotel in the city (but we still can’t award top marks...).

The Savoy has certainly made huge strides. Energy consumption is down 40%, and the hotel now generates around 50% of its own electricity, thanks to substantial investment in combined heat and power (CHP). This is married to waste management schemes, careful sourcing of food, beverages, goods and services, and extensive Corporate Social Responsibility work that have all contributed to the hotel earning a Green Key certification (4 keys out of 5) and persuading us of their commitment to social and environmental sustainability. But the constraints of an historic building in the heart of a major world city mean that the Savoy simply doesn’t have the opportunity to do some of the things that new hotels in more rural areas can.

  • Upgrades to energy systems have reduced consumption by 40% and water consumption is down 25% since reopening
  • GBP2.7m combined heat and power (CHP) plant generates 50% of hotel’s electricity need and provides green heat
  • 98% of waste is recycled into 11 different streams, including wine corks, electronic waste and toner cartridges. Guest waste is also sorted, aided by active measures to reduce packaging and office waste
  • Food waste is sent to a plant to convert it to biofuel
  • The Savoy is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association – food and drinks menus includes seasonal, local, organic, free range and healthy options
  • This London five-star hotel has earned a Hotel Association of Canada Green Key Rating of 4/5 and won a London Green Business for Tourism Gold Award and other green awards from various hotelier associations

  • The Savoy eschews some green measures in favour of maintaining its luxury reputation. It will always provide exotic fruit and flowers, and won’t use refillable shower gel dispensers
  • The hotels’ air conditioning has had some improvements but could be greener (the chillers were almost brand new and so were not replaced during refurbishment)

People

You can always expect excellent service at the Savoy, but their talented staff also apply themselves (mentally and physically) to giving back to the local community and helping the environment in a range of projects that encapsulate the mantra of ‘think global: act local’.

  • Savoy volunteers are prepared to get their hands dirty to help keep the Thames clean in the vicinity of the hotel. Both banks are cleared between Westminster and Waterloo bridges twice a year at low tide
  • This green hotel supports SpringBoardUK, an organisation which helps attract people from disadvantaged backgrounds to the hospitality industry. This is its main charitable partner, but it has donates to other charities
  • The Lifestyle Menu, offered at all the hotel’s restaurants and in room service, is a class above what almost any other hotel offers in terms of providing healthy options and locally sourced produce for a range of dietary needs or desires – low salt, heart healthy, vegan, vegetarian, etc
  • An inclusive culture means employees are encouraged to contribute their ideas. There are good training and education opportunities and staff turnover is low
  • The staff-based Green Team has developed several initiatives including helping clients to green up their meetings
  • The butlers – available to guests staying in suites – have received eco training to assist guests with enjoying a green stay in London – from suggesting organic restaurants to providing cycle maps and organising eco-themed walks and visits to local community project.
  • Has its own stash of swish BMW bicycles, which guests can hire
  • Promotes green issues – has helped persuade several local hospitality businesses to sign up to the same impressive recycling scheme and takes part in Earth Hour (guests can enjoy candlelit dinners)

  • A low percentage of local staff – but in a major international city like London, this is difficult to achieve
  • The Savoy does excellent work with a number of charities, but hasn’t set up its own charitable foundations, like some of the hotels we’ve reviewed, which can make a real impact to local life

Animals & nature

Entering the Savoy from the often-congested Strand, you might think there’s not much a central London hotel can do to support the natural environment, but its been surprisingly creative in dealing with these issues.  Admittedly we’re talking baby steps rather than giant strides, but scope is limited in the heart of the city.

PETA will be taking a look at the cruelty-free credentials of the Savoy’s toiletries and cleaning products for EcoLuxHotels.com soon.

  • The hotel has ‘adopted’ the stretch of the Thames that passes beneath the hotel, and staff (and guest) volunteers take part in twice-yearly clean-up activities with equipment and instruction from local charity Thames21 – tonnes of waste have been removed to date
  • A small herb garden has been created on a patch of unused land adjacent to the hotel in partnership with Capital Growth. The garden is maintained by green-fingered staff from across the hotel
  • Menus feature sustainable and organic options (the Savoy is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association), including biodynamic cocktails, RSPCA freedom Food (veal and pork belly).
  • This London luxury hotel make efforts to use green chemicals for cleaning/pest control (100% Ecolab)

  • As a city-centre hotel, it’s difficult for the Savoy to have much impact on wildlife, this hotel simply cannot do as much for animals and nature as some of the hotels we review
  • While it offers an extensive vegetarian and vegan menu, its restaurant menus also feature items considered cruel, such as foie gras

Environment & buildings

The Savoy has a history of being first.  The Savoy Theatre – adjacent to the hotel - was the first electrically powered public building in the world; the hotel was the first London luxury hotel to introduce elevators and indoor toilets with hot and cold running water.

While by no means the first hotel to have combined heat and power (CHP), it is great to see that the recent renovation saw green power and hot water introduced into the hotel. There is a genuine sense that the hotel wants to be leading the pack in green issues and The Savoy has the reputation and resources to make a real impact.

As well as the investment in energy systems, the hotel is working with some groundbreaking recycling companies and has other exciting eco-initiatives in the pipeline.

  • Upgrades to energy systems has reduced consumption by 40% and water consumption is down 25% since reopening
  • GBP2.7m combined heat and power (CHP) plant generates 50% of hotel’s electricity need and provides green heat
  • Hot water is pre-heated by heat generated from the kitchens
  • 98% of waste is recycled into 11 different streams, including wine corks, electronic waste and toner cartridges. Guest waste is also sorted, aided by active measures to reduce packaging and office waste
  • Food waste is sent to a plant to convert it to biofuel
  • This London five-star hotel has earned a Hotel Association of Canada Green Key Rating of 4/5 and won a London Green Business for Tourism Gold Award and other green awards from various hotelier associations
  • Proactive energy management/monitoring with over a GBP1m investment in metering system
  • Motion detectors help control cooling and lighting when guests aren’t in the room
  • Solar films applied to south-facing windows, plus the south-facing façade was extensively renovated during refurbishment to include better insulation and glazing
  • All suppliers are vetted for green credentials.

  • Misses out on the top 5/5 rating from Green Key because the hotel will not compromise luxury in some areas, such as reusable dispensers and individual pots of jam (the Savoy does recycle to an extensive degree - but the mantra is REDUCE, reuse, recycle for a reason)
  • Missed opportunity to update cooling during the refurbishment

Reviewed by Tim Starley-Grainger


Luxury


Overall luxury rating*


The iconic London luxury hotel exudes old-school glamour and charm, with service that’s as top-notch as the facilities. And the location couldn’t be better, whether you’re here for business or leisure.

The scene

Overlooking the River Thames in the heart of central London, The Savoy couldn’t be in a better location. It’s three minutes walk from Trafalgar Square to the west, Covent Garden market to the north and Somerset House to the east.  In 10 minutes, you can be waving to the queen at Buckingham Palace, checking your watch against Big Ben, bar-hopping in Soho or on the other side of the river strolling along the South Bank promenade. As one of the world’s most famous hotels, it draws all kinds of guests, from business people to retirees, honeymooning couples to teen families.

  • The perfect city-centre location for both business travellers and tourists
  • Right in the centre of the action, with many sights easily walkable
  • Views over the Thames and down to Big Ben and Houses of Parliament

  • It’s on The Strand, a busy road with traffic that barely moves at rush hour – times when you should forget cabbing or bussing it to the hotel and just walk five minutes from the Charing Cross or Embankment tube stations
  • Bustling and busy, this is no tranquil retreat, although rooms are pin-drop quiet
  • Young children are welcomed, but the beauty – and price - of this hotel will probably be wasted on them

The style

Built in 1889, The Savoy hotel was an instant landmark, a Victorian marvel with whizzy new facilities, like electric lifts (elevators). It expanded a few years later, adding an Edwardian extension and en suite bathrooms – a first for London hotels.

But it was The Jazz Age that brought the hotel to worldwide attention, thanks to a bevy of celebs who practically (and sometimes literally) moved in, and it’s been in the spotlight ever since. Think of an A-lister from the last century, whether film star, politician or royalty, and chances are they’ll have slept at The Savoy, from Marilyn and Elvis to The Queen.

In 2010, the hotel reopened after an extensive three-year renovation that saw it revamped from top to bottom. It now merges Edwardian and Art Deco interiors, so pick your room depending on your style, with one wing all sleek geometric Deco glam, and the other romantic Edwardian traditional.

Although nearly flawless, the style is let down in a few places. The Savoy Grill restaurant, headed up by Gordon Ramsay and one of the hotel’s four dining venues, blends 1980s Las Vegas lounge with Angus Steakhouse décor – not an appetising mix. And some furnishings in the rooms feel more mass produced than bespoke or antique, while the Edwardian rooms will feel too chintzy for guests who prefer a more modern look. But these are minor complaints in such a sumptuous setting.

Our fifth-floor Riverside Deluxe room in the Edwardian wing came with those unrivalled Thames and Big Ben views, Murano glass chandeliers, swag curtains and a huge bathroom with clawfoot tub and rainfall shower. We took a sneak peak at the Frank Sinatra Suite in the Art Deco wing, which evokes a mid-20th century Vegas lounge, with specially commissioned artworks, vintage photographs and a library of his films.

  • Opulent interiors, beautifully restored in a 3-year renovation from 2007 to 2010
  • Two distinctly different guestroom styles to choose from: traditional Edwardian and glamorous Art Deco
  • A huge romantic Victorian gazebo in the pretty Thames Foyer, where breakfast, afternoon tea and light lunches and dinners are served
  • Glamorous Art Deco bars and lounges
  • An impressive entrance lobby with wood-panelled walls topped with a unique blue-and-white Wedgwood border, historic portraits and sink-into sofas

  • Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill looks dated
  • The health centre looks like a gym – yet you’d expect a beautifully designed spa in a hotel of this standard
  • Some of the guestroom furnishings don’t feel as special as the décor in the rest of the hotel

The facilities

With four restaurants, two bars, a chocolate shop, a boutique, a florist, a jewellers, a health centre and 268 guestrooms – many with river views – the only facility the hotel is lacking is a full spa, although you can get treatments in the health centre. Butlers are available, too, for guests staying in suites, and the concierges can arrange babysitters or almost anything else you can dream up.

Those little touches that set a great hotel apart from just a good one are in abundance here – homemade shortbread and a fresh apple compote waiting in your room on arrival, a loofah and wonderful toiletries by Le Labo in the bathtub caddy, bedside slippers in chic black with the gold Savoy logo. Go for a workout or swim in the health centre, and the water carafes are infused with mint and cucumber or fresh oranges.

Service is formal, and during our stay was impeccable, apart from breakfast: we needed to eat and run but sat around waiting for nearly an hour for it to arrive. A fluke, we’re told, and beyond that, the standard was as good as any five-star we’ve stayed in.

Food and drink are as pricey as you’d expect – and as good. Choosing from the extensive cocktail and champagne menu in the legendary American Bar wasn’t easy, but my Blushing Monarch (gin, campari, orange, passionfruit, lemon) was a perfect balance of tart and sweet, and the bar was buzzing with well-heeled tourists and pre-theatre locals.

Famous French chef Escoffier ran The Savoy’s first restaurant in the 1890s, and they continue to pay homage to him at the River Restaurant with a menu of Franco-British cuisine. Book a table on the terrace in summer for Thames views. As vegetarians, we were also offered the incredibly impressive Lifestyle Menu, which has a huge array of options for all kinds of dietary requirements, from gluten-free and low-salt to vegan and macrobiotic. But we just asked the chef to whip something up – and he did, and it was marvellous. Fried aubergine and haricot-bean croquettes topped with tomato, courgette and onion salsa. Delicious.

  • Many guestrooms have unrivalled views over the river and straight to Big Ben and Parliament. Ask for one on an upper floor for the best vantage point
  • Four restaurants to suit a range of tastes – and with an excellent menu for a huge range of dietary concerns – with chefs who know what they’re doing
  • The River Restaurant has Thames views – best seen from a terrace table
  • An excellent gym with small swimming pool, and changing rooms with saunas and steam rooms
  • Nightly piano in the American Bar, and cabaret in the Beaufort Bar, both of which are usually buzzing and feel very special-occasion, with imaginative cocktail menus
  • Watch them make handmade chocolates at the on-site chocolate shop
  • The Thames Foyer makes a beautiful setting for The Savoy Afternoon Tea

  • You’d expect a proper spa at a five-star like this, and the health centre doesn’t quite fit the bill

We love

  • The glamorous architecture and interiors – you’re wowed even before you walk in
  • Unrivalled views over the Thames and to Big Ben and Parliament from many guestrooms
  • Cocktails in the two bars are creative and well-executed, and the scene is buzzy
  • Two-person clawfoot bathtubs in the huge bathrooms
  • Le Labo toiletries – lovely natural scents and high-quality formulations
  • The French-British cuisine, Art Deco style and Thames views in the River Restaurant
  • Service is full-on five-star, with butlers and concierges who actually know their stuff

You might not love

  • The Edwardian rooms lean towards chintz
  • The lack of a full spa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Jill Starley-Grainger


The Savoy

Strand London, United Kingdom WC2R 0EU

UK
+44 (0)20 7836 4343

Standard room rates from GBPtbc

Eco

Luxury*

Interests

"London's Savoy hotel gets five stars for eco refit" The Ecologist

"A gloriously refreshed version of the original, embracing both its Edwardian and Art Deco heritage." Conde Nast Traveller

"One is constantly, and appropriately, reminded that many of the great figures of the 20th century have passed along these hallways" The Telegraph